Groundbreaking new vaccine slashes skin and pancreatic cancer rates

[Apr. 8, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]

Vaccination with senescent cells significantly reduces tumor development in experimental models of melanoma and pancreatic cancer. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Cancer cells have long been a challenge for the immune system to identify and attack, as they create an environment that blocks immune cells and protects the tumor. However, a new study by scientists at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona could change that.

According to a new study published in the Cancer Discovery magazineinducing senescence of cancer cells could improve the efficiency of the immune response to a greater extent than dead cancer cells, which has been the subject of research in this area for years.

The study, led by ICREA researcher Dr Manuel Serrano and Dr Federico Pietrocola, who is now at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, found that vaccinating healthy mice with senescent cancer cells and then stimulation of tumor formation prevented animals from developing cancer, or at least greatly reduced the number of cases.

The researchers also observed the effectiveness of vaccination in animals that had already developed tumors, and although the results were more moderate due to the protective barrier of the tumor, improvements were still observed.

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“Our results indicate that senescent cells are a preferred option when it comes to stimulating the immune system against cancer, and they open the way to considering vaccination with these cells as a possible therapy,” says Dr. Serrano, Head of the Cellular Plasticity and Diseases Laboratory unit at IRB Barcelona.

The researchers tested the technique in animal models of melanoma, a type of cancer characterized by strong activation of the immune system, as well as in models of pancreatic cancer, which exhibit strong barriers against immune cells.

Prophylactic vaccination with senescent cancer cells was effective against both tumor types. They also supplemented the study with tumor samples from cancer patients and confirmed that human cancer cells also have a greater ability to activate the immune system when previously rendered senescent.

Immune cell infiltrate (in dark red) around senescent cancer cells (large nuclei marked in blue). (CREDIT: IRB Barcelona)

The study concludes that the induction of senescence in tumor cells improves the recognition of these cells by the immune system and increases the intensity of the response they generate. Senescent cells exhibit unique signals that stimulate recognition and activation of the immune system, which differ from those exhibited by cells before senescence was induced.

The study led by the IRB Barcelona team was published simultaneously and in the same journal as another article led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York and carried out in collaboration with IRB Barcelona . The latter, authored by Dr. Direna Alonso-Curbello, now head of the Inflammation, Tissue Plasticity & Cancer laboratory at IRB Barcelona, ​​​​and Dr. Scott W. Lowe, reaches complementary conclusions despite the study of the topic with a different approach.

Senescent tumor cells, mouse pancreatic cancer cell culture. (CREDIT: IRB Barcelona)

MSKCC work has focused on describing how induction of senescence in tumor cells alters the molecular programs that mediate communication between the tumor and the immune system. “Until now, most studies have focused on the ability of senescent cells to ‘send’ inflammatory signals to their environment. Our work shows that this communication is bidirectional, revealing that senescence increases the ability of cells to “receive” signals from their environment that activate key pathways for their recognition and destruction by cytotoxic T lymphocytes”, explains Dr Alonso- Curbello.

This work demonstrates that the ability to “receive” signals from the environment, which is increased by induction of senescence, amplifies the anti-tumor effects of signals such as interferon, making tumor cells more visible to the immune system and reactivating anti-tumor effects. immunity in liver cancer models.

The researchers tested the technique in animal models of melanoma, a type of cancer characterized by strong activation of the immune system, as well as in models of pancreatic cancer, which exhibit strong barriers against immune cells. (CREDIT: IRB Barcelona)

The IRB Barcelona team is currently studying the combined efficacy of vaccination with senescent cells and immunotherapy treatments. Senescent cells have shown promising results as a cancer therapy, but combining it with immunotherapy treatments could lead to even greater success. Immunotherapy treatments, such as checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cell therapy, work by enhancing the immune system’s ability to recognize and attack cancer cells.

The IRB Barcelona team hopes that the combination of these two therapies will lead to a more effective cancer treatment. “We believe that combining our approach with immunotherapy treatments has the potential to significantly improve the prognosis of cancer patients,” says Dr. Serrano.

The team is also investigating whether senescent cells could be used as a preventative measure against cancer. “Our results suggest that senescent cells could be used to stimulate the immune system to prevent the development of cancer in people at high risk,” explains Inés Marín, a doctoral student from the same laboratory and first author of the study.

This research could have far-reaching implications for the field of cancer treatment. Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide and new treatments are urgently needed to improve patient outcomes. Using senescent cells as cancer therapy has the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment and save countless lives.

In addition to cancer, senescent cells have also been implicated in other age-related diseases, such as atherosclerosis. The findings of the IRB Barcelona team suggest that senescent cells could also be used to develop vaccines against these diseases. This research could lead to the development of new treatments for a range of age-related diseases and improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

However, many challenges still need to be overcome before senescent cell therapy can be widely used in clinical settings. One of the biggest challenges is to develop a safe and effective way to induce senescence in cancer cells. Researchers at IRB Barcelona have made significant progress in this area, but there is still work to be done.

Another challenge is to ensure that the immune response to senescent cells is not harmful to healthy cells. While senescent cells can stimulate an immune response against cancer cells, they can also be mistaken for foreign cells and attacked by the immune system. Researchers at IRB Barcelona are currently studying ways to avoid this problem.

Despite these challenges, the potential of senescent cell therapy as a treatment for cancer and other age-related diseases is too great to ignore. The potential of senescent cell therapy as a treatment for cancer and other age-related diseases is enormous and research by the IRB Barcelona team has provided important insights into the role of senescent cells in the cancer and opened new avenues of research in the field of cancer treatment. .

The study led by IRB Barcelona was carried out in collaboration with the laboratories led by Dr María Abad and Dr Alena Gros, at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) in Barcelona, ​​and Dr Etienne Caron, at the CHU Sainte – Justine Research Center in Canada. In addition, the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Unit, led by Dr. Camille Stephan-Otto Attolini, and the Histopathology Platform, led by Dr. Neus Prats, both at IRB Barcelona, ​​also participated.

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